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Courts seek to minimise disruption as four judges become three

Archive image of Gibraltar's Supreme Court. Photo by Johnny Bugeja.

The recent appointment of Puisne Judge Karen Ramagge Prescott as the next Speaker of the Gibraltar Parliament will “undoubtedly impact” the Supreme Court diary, the chief executive of the Gibraltar Court Service acknowledged on Wednesday, even while assuring disruption would be kept to a minimum.

Mrs Justice Ramagge Prescott will be retiring from the Bench in just over a week on November 9, just in time for the ceremonial opening of parliament on November 10.

The short period between the announcement and the commencement of the new role has left the judiciary and Supreme Court staff scrambling to minimise the impact on the upcoming court calendar.

In her role as one of four judges in Gibraltar Supreme Court, Mrs Justice Ramagge Prescott was set down to preside over three criminal trials over the next three months.

The trials included a major fraud case set down for a lengthy six weeks.

“The very short timeline between Mrs Justice Ramagge Prescott’s nomination as the next Speaker of the Gibraltar Parliament and her consequent retirement from the Bench, will undoubtedly impact upon the Supreme Court diary,” Hazel Cumbo, Chief Executive of the Gibraltar Courts Service, told the Chronicle.

“The judiciary and the Gibraltar Courts Service are committed to ensure that any disruption to our operations are kept to an absolute minimum.”

“The recruitment of judicial officers is a matter for the Judicial Service Commission.”

“However, the Chief Justice is confident that this process will proceed in a very timely manner.”

Mrs Justice Ramagge Prescott’s appointment was announced on Tuesday and comes after Speaker Melvyn Farrell decided he would retire from the post after four years.

She will be the first woman to hold the post of Speaker after being Gibraltar’s first female Puisne Judge in the Supreme Court.

Her career in law stems over 30 years and she has had a pioneering role in Gibraltar's legal circles, being the first woman to be appointed a Notary Public in Gibraltar in 2007 and, in 2017, the first Gibraltarian woman to have been appointed a Master of the Bench of the Middle Temple.

The announcement this week followed earlier news that Stipendiary Magistrate Charles Pitto had retired, leaving a second critical post in the court service vacant pending the appointment of a successor.

The slack in the Magistrates Court has been picked up in the interim by Justices of the Peace and the Registrar, who can sit too as an additional Stipendiary.

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